Spring is finally here and along with it comes the bulk of the 2018 Spikeball™ Roundnet Association (SRA) season. This weekend 74 teams will be heading to Atlanta, GA for the first Southeast Tour event of 2018 and the first Tour Stop outside of the West. This event has attracted a good number of top teams from the Southeast, East, and Midwest that are all looking to start the Tour Series off on the right foot. This tournament also marks a milestone for the SRA and Southeast region as it is the largest tour stop in the Southeast's history.
Starting this weekend, there will be an official SRA event nearly every Saturday from now until August, not to mention the numerous Coed Division tournaments that will be held on Sundays, including this weekend in Atlanta.
The Atlanta Tour Stop is bound to be an interesting one. A total of 10 power ranked teams will be attending and competing in their first Tour Stop of the year. Even better is the fact that six of the top 10 teams will be there.
Leading the pack is the 2017 national champion Cisek/Showalter (Tyler Cisek and Peter Jon Showalter). The pair split up for the Huntington Beach Tour Stop but played together and won the Golden Games tournament in Lancaster, PA last month. Cisek/Showalter only lost one match in all of 2017 and similar domination is expected for this year.
In contrast to Cisek/Showalter, who we saw a ton of in 2017, the team to watch out for is one we did not see at all last season: Origin Vengeance (Chris Hornacek and Dylan Fogarty). This duo was very successful in 2016 and was the #2 ranked team for most of the season (Check out a video on the history of this team here). Although Fogarty is returning from a semi-retirement, the initial murmurings in the community say that he will be back to top form without missing a beat. Hornacek has two podium finishes this year as well, so it is safe to say that expectations are high. In the forthcoming Power Rankings, Vengeance is in the top 10.
Dylan Fogarty of Origin Vengeance serves at 2017 East Regionals.
Rounding out the top 10 are two teams we know and two we have yet to see. The former consists of #6 Easily Dug (Travis Core and Andrew Card) and #7 Hilltop Spikes (Max Model and Cole Model). As the highest ranked team in the Southeast, Easily Dug will be in charge of protecting its region from outsiders. Cross-region play by Core and Card was limited in 2017, but they scored big finishes at College Nationals (second place), Southeast Regionals (first place), and Nationals (fourth place) due in large part to Core’s strong serving and the pair's defensive skill.
Hilltop Spikes improved by leaps and bounds last year and although they never landed on a tour event podium, their play impressed many. Last month Hilltop placed third at Golden Games, where they took a game from Cisek/Showalter in the semifinals. The pair is best known for their serves: Max can rip the ball with his left hand and Cole uses a mix of step, spin, and cutting to send the ball extremely wide. Their weakness in the past has been hitting and defensive consistency which seems to have tightened up. Some predict this pair will be top 5 this season and a solid performance here will send them in that direction.
The #9 and #10 teams are a bit of a mystery heading in. Golden Set’s Harding Brumby and Texas free agent Grayson Ayres are teaming as L.E.D. while Nashburgh’s Joel Graham and Lancaster’s Caleb Heck are joining forces as The (717). Neither team has competed together so there are no results to base predictions on. However, the potential is high for both teams. All have been training recently as well: Brumby with Easily Dug and others in Chattanooga, TN; Ayres with fellow Texas players; and Heck and Graham with the large Lancaster, PA community.
Joel Graham of The (717) serves at 2017 East Regionals.
Atlanta also features a handful of teams outside of the top 10 and some solid mash-up teams. Other power ranked teams include #13 Schweppes, #17 Recrem, #21 Sonic Boom and #24 Cho’s Bros.
Schweppes placed second at Golden Games last month where they displayed the strong defense they became known for in 2016. A mash-up to lookout for is MenAce which features Origin Impact’s Patrick Drucker and nationals quarterfinalist George Rizk of Schizik. Skyler Boles is also competing alongside Nick Sant of the Spicy Roundnet Club.
A few teams just outside of power ranking contention and hunting for a win that will land them on it are Chocolate Milk (Clark Marshall and Tyler Montgomery), Origin Flow (Mike Priller and Nick Daub), Lutz of Ferrari’s (Jeremy Lutz and Brendan Ferrerira, and Last Resort (Ben Landes and Addison Powers).
With all of these strong teams in attendance, it likely that this event will have a competition for the "Breakout Baller" spot. If all 16 players in the quarterfinals are Premier-qualified, then the teams eliminated in the round of 16 will play out for that t-9th spot and a Premier qualification.
To reiterate, the Atlanta Tour Stop will be the largest tournament in Southeast Tour history. But this tournament is not simply big, it is stacked with top teams as well. There are countless match-ups that roundnet fans would like to see. And as the season is ramping up after this weekend, the Atlanta results may give us a good look at what lies ahead in the 2018 season.
Four teams will be competing in the Women's Division in Atlanta. As there are just these four teams, they will all participate in the Advanced or Intermediate Divisions first before competing amongst themselves. The two-time National Champions Ogres Heroes (Alli Kauffman and Becca Graham) will be playing in the Advanced Division and are the favorite to win this Women's Division. Another team to look out for is Twinz (Olivia Jenkins and Ali Jenkins), a southeast team who narrowly missed the Women's power rankings last month.
Alli Kauffman of Ogres Heroes winds up to hit a ball at 2017 East Regionals.
On Sunday, nine teams will return to the fields for the second ever official SRA Coed Division. Two teams stand out as front-runners for this division: The Autobiographies (Peter Jon Showalter and Alli Kauffman) and Zesty Zebras (Dylan Fogarty and Becca Graham).
Let us know how you think the weekend will turn out in the Prediction Poll. Poll results will be posted Friday evening.
How to watch
Bracket matches from this event will be livestreamed on Facebook Live with a scoreboard and commentary. Here is how you can make sure to be notified when each match starts:
1. Go here: https://www.facebook.com/spikeball/
2. Select the Follow/Following dropdown button
3. Select the little pencil next to Notifications (on mobile select Edit Notification Settings)
4. Select "All Live Posts" under the Live Videos section
Got something related to roundnet that you want to know more about? Have any topics you want to be discussed on the podcast? Contact Mike White at firstname.lastname@example.org or @mwhitey17 on Twitter.
Subscribe here to receive weekly email updates from The Rally Blog!